Forget Messi & Ronaldo, Andrea Pirlo tipped for Ballon d’Or

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Italy and Juventus midfielder Andrea Pirlo has been tipped by Spain coach Vincente Del Bosque to win the prestigious Ballon d’Or award.

The Italy international was instrumental as the 2006 World Cup winners unexpectedly stormed to the Euro 2012 final, dispatching England and Germany on route, only to lose to Spain, and few give the Juventus playmaker much chance of picking up the annual award.

Presented to the outstanding individual in world football, the FIFA Ballon d’Or, as it is now known, has been handed, quite deservedly, to the Barcelona magician Lionel Messi for the past three years.

Before that Cristiano Ronaldo scooped the accolade, his only triumph to date, following Manchester United’s successful Champions League campaign in 2008.

And the Messi versus Ronaldo debate has reignited this season, with the El Clasico duo putting up ridiculous numbers across the last calendar year. You all know the statistics – Messi scored 82 goals for club and country, Ronaldo 46 league goals and a La Liga title.

In theory, the award should go to one of these superstars. It should be a no-brainer.

But, at last month’s Best Player in Europe award, the two rivals left empty-handed, both left shocked on stage as another stepped forward into the limelight to collect the shiny trophy.

Andres Iniesta was recognised by UEFA voters for his outstanding season, and his wonderful performances in the summer’s Euro 2012 tournament. So a Messi-Ronaldo victory is by no means a foregone conclusion.

Spain coach Vincente Del Bosque coach Iniesta to a second European Championship this summer, and while he admits he’d like to see a Spanish player win, he wouldn’t be surprised if Andrea Pirlo won the Ballon d’Or.

“Pirlo could win [the Ballon d’Or]. He is among the candidates,” Del Bosque told reporters. “He is a complete player, able to build the game and finish it.

“Even though I think very little about this award, I hope it goes to a Spaniard. Iniesta? He’s not the only one. The competition is strong, with Ronaldo, Messi and Falcao.”

As a three-time Ballon d’Or winner, many cannot look past Leo Messi again this year. One who can is Jose Mourinho, perhaps inevitably as Real Madrid coach opting for his player Cristiano Ronaldo.

It would be a crime to overlook Ronaldo, according to Mourinho, but the Portuguese coach is not the only one to feel that way.

Former-Barcelona star Zlatan Ibrahimovic revealed he feels Messi does not deserve to win this year, “it’s someone else’s turn to win it,” said the Swede.

And there is a feeling that, despite the brilliance, and despite the remarkable goals record, it may be time to look beyond Messi, who as Ibrahimovic pointed out, has not actually won anything of note in the last 12 months.

Pirlo and Juventus went an entire season unbeaten, Ronaldo helped Real Madrid to a first La Liga title since 2008, and Iker Casillas, Iniesta and Xavi capped an unbelievable four years for Spain with another European Championship to go alongside their World Cup and 2008 truimph.

So, perhaps it is time for someone else. Does Pirlo really stand a chance? The award ceremony takes place next month, so who would get your vote? Leave your choice in the comment box below...

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